I Am Serious... and Don’t Call Me Shirley

Well, the workday itself was fairly innocuous — a lot of work, but nothing out of the ordinary.

But it seemed like the return trip was determined to be at least as interesting as the trip down.

First there was the mysterious cell phone call I received during the afternoon; we were in the middle of a shoot, so of course I didn’t pick up (not to mention the fact that I didn’t recognize the number, in which case I never pick up), but they didn’t bother to leave a message. Fortunately, they left a message on Ginny’s phone: It was an automated call from US Airways, letting us know that our flight out of Savannah was delayed, and we would therefore not make our connection in Charlotte. (Hey, nice to call, but you’d think they could have left me a message. What, am I a pariah?)

In the end, they couldn’t get us another US Airways flight, so they booked us on AirTran into Atlanta, then continuing on to National Airport. Well, somewhere along the way, the change tagged us for “additional secutiy screening.” So we had to step into the “special” line and submit to an everything-but-strip-search. In actuality, it wasn’t that bad — I’d thankfully left my dynamite at home — and had there been a long line, our “special line” status would have gotten us through sooner than usual.

We ran into one of our company’s professional speakers at the airport, and he gave us some advance warning that air conditions were pretty rough. Keep that in mind — it’ll come into play in a moment.

The flight to Atlanta was fairly innocuous, not to mention quick. Once there, though, we had a two-and-a-half hour layover. After sitting down to eat at that bastion of fine cuisine, TGI Friday’s (where, inexplicably, they had run out of steak), we wandered around the airport shops. I didn’t end up buying anything — I do need new shoes, but I decided I can’t exactly drop $325 on an impulse buy (or, really, even a considered buy).

The Atlanta-to-D.C. leg was where the fun began. First, we sat across from some asshole with a Bluetooth wireless headset who decided that repeated instructions to cease using cell phones (not to mention all electronic devices) really didn’t apply to him. His solution? Cover his face with a piece of paper so people might think he was just talking to himself (nothing critical, of course, just chit chat). It wasn’t until we’re out on the runway, about to throttle up for takeoff that he finally decided that it just might be time to end the call.

(And yeah, I know that cell phones don’t really cause problems with the onboard instrumentation — but it’s still illegal to deliberately disregard flight crew instructions. Not to mention annoying.)

A little later came what I’ve dubbed the “Mad Russian” episode. The plane was bouncing around like a pinball (see, I told you I’d get back to that); they canceled all hot-beverage service, and even serving the cold ones was an ordeal (they didn’t even try to pour the drinks for us — just handed us the can and the cup with a tacit “good luck”). Suddenly, this big bear of a guy decides to get up and start opening overhead bins, leaving them wide open as he wanders up the aisle, ostensibly looking for something. The flight attendant gets on the P.A. system, and basically orders him to close the bins and get back in his seat, but he ignores her. Finally, she has to go up to him, take him by the arm, and almost forcibly re-seat him. He wasn’t yelling at her, but it was clear from his wild gesticulations that he wasn’t going down voluntarily. Later on, I noticed him reading what appeared to be a Russian newspaper (well, one with Cyrillic lettering, anyway, but I’d just been watching Dr. Zhivago, so I may have been jumping to conclusions). Okay, so there may have been a language barrier, but hello! What idiot thinks it’ll be just fine to open all the overhead bins while we’re playing Mexican jumping bean?

The flight goes on, and they give several warnings about the “30 minutes” rule going into National — Federal law prohibits anyone from being up and around during the last half-hour of flight; any violations, and the plane must immediately divert to another airport. So we finally hit that mark, and the attendant announces on the P.A. system that we’ve hit the half-hour mark, and everyone must immediately get into their seats and remain there for the duration. Sure enough, some lady jumps up, and runs to the back of the plane to use the bathroom. Um, what the hell were you doing during the last twenty minutes, when they were saying, “Go now... Go now... Go now...”? The stewardess was obviously caught off guard, debating what to do. By law, we now had to divert. No exceptions.

Finally, she gets back on the P.A. and resignedly announces that we’ll be hitting that half-hour mark in about two minutes.

I couldn’t help but wonder how this particular flight managed to get stacked with more than its fair share of lunatics, but then I realized the reason.

Our co-pilot’s name — no kidding — was Striker.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over Macho Grande...


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